Maldives has stepped forward to co-champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on sustainable coastal fisheries alongside the current champion country, Kiribati.
The country made the announcement at a virtual seminar, hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
As a new co-champion, Maldives will work with Kiribati, as well as the other members of the action group, to develop strategies on the sustainable use of coastal marine resources across the Commonwealth, covering a third of the world’s national waters.
Nearly 90 per cent of the world’s fisheries have been fully exploited, depleted, or are in a state of collapse, signalling a threat to food security, fishing-dependent livelihoods and marine ecosystem.
Research has found that if the world’s fisheries were sustainably managed, they could provide six times more food than current levels while creating more than 12 million new jobs.
Against this backdrop, the purpose is to ramp up coordinated action and advocacy for a resilient coastal fisheries industry, which benefits both the present and future generations in the face of threats like climate change and overfishing.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “We are delighted that Maldives, a large ocean state, will co-champion our Action Group on sustainable governance of fisheries, which has long been the bedrock of the Maldivian economy.
“Their announcement signifies Maldives’ strong commitment to modernising the fisheries sector in a smart, sustainable and responsible way, which works for the people, economy and the ocean.
“This is the primary mandate of our Commonwealth Blue Charter, which brings together our member countries to co-operate and collaborate on national strategies to address shared issues affecting the health and sustainable use of our ocean, while building a global momentum for more ambitious ocean action.”
The fisheries industry is of particular significance for the Commonwealth, particularly for its 24 small island states, including Maldives, which depend heavily on the ocean for sustenance.
Maldives’ Minister of State for Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture Hassan Rasheed said: “As the Commonwealth’s newest member, we remain steadfast in our shared goal of securing the ocean bounty for future generations.
“Fisheries are an integral part of Maldivian identity. The work being done under the Blue Charter is critical, especially for countries like ours, which is extremely dependent on the ocean for fisheries, food security, employment and foreign income.
“We are proud to co-champion the Action Group on sustainable coastal fisheries and take part in an endeavour that contributes towards ocean sustainability at a global level.”
The Blue Charter was agreed by Commonwealth heads of government in April 2018, as a vehicle to drive active co-operation on ocean governance and sustainability.
As of January 2021, 15 countries have stepped forward as ‘champions’ of 10 action groups, each focusing on a different ocean issue, from marine pollution to climate change. Forty-four countries have joined one or more of the 10 action groups.
Kiribati’s Secretary for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource Development, Dr Agnes Yeeting said: “As a champion, Kiribati looks forward to working with interested members to ensure all activities are supported to address issues encountered by coastal fisheries for a common benefit of all.
“Kiribati cannot progress on sustainable coastal fisheries alone but counts on collaborative efforts from members. Therefore, Kiribati is delighted to have Maldives on board for this common goal.”
The Action Group on Sustainable Coastal Fisheries encourages better stewardship of coastal marine resources through sharing of best practices, promoting sustainable management, and mobilising funding for joint initiatives to develop improved fisheries solutions.